A Restoration and Renovation to Enhance Dental Student and Patient Experiences

More than three years ago, Penn Dental Medicine Dean Denis Kinane took leaders from the school on a retreat to ask a challenging question: How would the school rebuild and rethink the pre-clinic for students?

As Peter Kauderwood, associate dean of administration for the school, remembers it, the conversation turned into a lengthy discussion about the student and patient experience at the school and in the clinics. For students, time spent in the pre-clinic, known as the GRD, is essential to their training—they learn hands-on techniques about restorative dentistry and prosthetic therapies in the first and second years of the DMD program, before they interact with live patients.

And while patients didn’t interact with students in the pre-clinic, Kauderwood says it was clear that aspects of their experience needed to be improved. Some patients were seen in an outdated space in the lower concourse of the Thomas Evans Building, next to the pre-clinic.

Overlaying that were challenges of an older building, including inconsistent temperatures and outdated, inefficient lighting.

So, in 2015, during the building’s 100th anniversary, the school launched the Evans Building Centennial Renaissance project, a two-year, $37 million renovation that has touched every floor of the iconic structure. With support from alumni and donors, Kauderwood says the school pulled together a master plan for the renovations, borrowing funds through the University’s Century Bond program and allocating money from the Dental budget.

“[This] turned into renovating the entire lower concourse for the student experience, building a new 54-chair clinic on the first floor for patients and students to learn, creating new library spaces, and then going to the rest of the building in certain spaces which had never been touched on the third floor and renovating them,” Kauderwood says, adding that between this work and improvements to the specialty clinics over the last 15 years, 49 percent of the Evans Building has now been renovated. “It grew from just the patient and student experience to also, how do we improve the rest of the building so it’s maintained for the next 50 years?”

The first step was putting everything related to the student experience on the lower level of Evans, including a preclinical simulation clinic, a new student lounge, the William W.M. Cheung Auditorium, seminar rooms, small group study rooms, and the Academic Affairs & Student Life office. The state-of-the-art preclinical simulation facility features 90 student workstations, each with a retractable simulation unit that is fully outfitted with a patient torso/head, dental equipment, and designed to replicate the spatial dynamics of a clinical setting. Each space also has a computer monitor for instructional videos and streaming of live demonstrations, and there are four, 80-inch, high-definition displays in the lab for viewing videos and live demonstrations.

“When [Thomas W.] Evans left us the bequest for the Evans building, he challenged the school to be second to none and I think with the renovation, we’ve been able to restore it to essentially justify that expectation,” says Kinane.

For patients going to the new Edward & Shirley Shils Clinic on the first floor of Evans, the space is outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and patient care technologies, and is designed to maximize patient privacy and comfort. People walk through a building with charms both old and new, says Kauderwood.

The renovations also included relocating and reimagining the Leon Levy Library, which encompasses the Main Reading Room on the second floor—the space of the original library—and reading and study rooms on the third floor.

The building’s entire HVAC system is new, and lights are LED and metered—an aspect of the project that was funded through Penn’s Century Bonds program. University Architect David Hollenberg explains that in 2012, Penn floated a bond and raised close to $300 million in just one afternoon. As the name states, the bond doesn’t need to be paid back for 100 years, and the rates are fixed at 4.67 percent for that entire time.

This sizeable fund has allowed schools to pay for projects where “deferred maintenance and energy conservation converge,” Hollenberg says.

In the Centennial Renaissance project, Penn Dental Medicine seized the opportunity to address the building’s needs holistically, says Michael Dausch, executive director of design and construction in Facilities and Real Estate Services.

“Evans is a perfect example being that it had a lot of needs,” Dausch says. “The combination of the school fund, the Century Bond, and the Facilities Renewal Fund allowed the project to go forward and bring the building to a much more modern state with its systems. ... It’s a night and day difference.”

Kauderwood notes the zero percent loan to the school, paid back over 30 years, has allowed the Dental School to borrow money at incredibly good terms.

“It was a great plan by the University to motivate folks to do the right thing,” he says.

While the Centennial Renaissance project was completed in April, work is already underway on another endeavor: a complete renovation of the 11,520-square-foot Main Clinic to become the Robert I. Schattner Clinic, and the construction of the Schattner Pavilion. The Main Clinic renovation will be completed by the end of December 2017 and the Schattner Pavilion has a projected completion date of mid-June 2018.

The Pavilion will build upon the unified Penn Dental Medicine campus achieved with the Robert Schattner Center’s construction. When the Schattner Center opened in 2002, becoming the school’s main entrance, it linked the Evans Building and Leon Levy Center for Oral Health Research. The Schattner Pavilion will enhance this connection, further joining all three buildings that make up Penn Dental Medicine, and facilitating interaction among faculty and staff. The project has been funded by Penn Dental Medicine alumni, including a major gift from Class of 1948 alumnus Robert I. Schattner, who passed away in January.

“It was a big push for the dean to find a better way to connect the Levy building to Schattner and Evans,” says Kauderwood. “You’ll be able to come from the Main Clinic straight over a bridge into the new space and then into Levy, where we’re going to have a faculty collaboration space. It will open up Levy to the rest of the school.”

Kinane emphasizes that the faculty and students are already unparalleled, and they now will have facilities to match.

“When we’re complete in 2018, we’ll be in a fantastic position with respect to the global landscape of dental schools,” Kinane says. “We’ve always had this large investment on the basic sciences, but now, we’ll be able to showcase that better and enhance the research of translational scientists that are being helped by that.”

Photo: The time Dental Medicine students spend in the preclinical simulation facility (pictured) is essential to their training: They learn hands-on techniques about restorative dentistry and prosthetic therapies in the first and second years of the DMD program, before they interact with live patients.

A Restoration and Renovation to Enhance Dental Student and Patient Experiences